What Are Pepper Balls? | Are They Effective for Self Defense?

what are pepper balls and are they effective?

Self-defense is one of the most important topics when it comes to protecting you, your home, and your family. 

Failure to properly prepare for self-defense (or home defense) will likely leave you in a bad position if something ever does happen. And while the most effective weapon for self-defense is a firearm, there are many reasons you may not want to go down that route. 

Lack of finances, being married to someone with questionable motives, and having young children in your household can all be viable reasons for not wanting a firearm in your home. These are also viable reasons for not wanting other types of weapons in your household, such as knives, swords, axes, and really anything that’s sharp or has a pointy tip.

So what’s a good alternative?

I’ve found Pepper Balls to be highly effective for both self-and-home defense. Plus, Pepper Balls are the perfect type of weapon for households where it could be unsafe to keep other (more dangerous) forms of weapons lying around. 

So what are pepper balls exactly? 

Pepper balls are .68 caliber projectile rounds that are similar to paintballs but instead of being filled with a paint-like substance, it’s filled with a powdered form of pepper irritant known as PAVA. PAVA (pelargonic acid vanillylamide) is a form of synthetic capsaicin, similar to pepper spray, that will cause a burning sensation if it comes in contact with the eyes, mouth, nose, or other private areas. 

Continue reading if you want to learn more about pepper balls and how effective they are for self-defense. I also answer many other questions related to pepper balls such as how to shoot pepper balls for self-defense, can you shoot pepper balls with any paintball gun, and are pepper balls lethal.

What Are Pepper Balls?

Pepper balls are paintballs filled with pepper spray (technically PAVA) that you can fire down-range 150+ feet with a device such as a paintball gun, paintball pistol, or even a flashlight! 

When these pepper powder-filled paintballs come into contact with an object, person, or hard surface (such as the ground) they explode into a cloud of powder that can harm anyone within a 12-foot radius. And even though PAVA isn’t as incapacitating as oleoresin capsicum spray (pepper spray), it’s actually more harmful to the eyes and still has enough power to incapacitate a person by inflicting pain on their nose, mouth, and other more private areas as well. 

This 12-foot cloud of pepper irritant powder can remain active in the air for up to 15 minutes at a time. However, this is only the case if the pepper ball breaks in a small confined area such as a hallway. If the pepper balls break in an open area then the cloud of incapacitating pepper irritant will dissipate much faster, especially if it’s windy outside.

Are Pepper Balls Effective?

Yes, pepper balls are filled with a pepper irritant powder known as PAVA that’s highly effective when used properly. Of course, pepper balls aren’t nearly as effective as a firearm or a knife for self-defense, but they do provide more incapacitating power than most other less-lethal weapons. 

So how effective are pepper balls?

To answer that question, we first need to figure out how effective PAVA is. 

Here’s what I found out.

Facts About PAVA

  • Less likely to affect others around you when compared to pepper spray. 
  • Not as effective on persons under the influence of alcohol and/or other drugs. 
  • Primarily affects the eyes by causing closure and severe pain (more painful than pepper spray).
  • When exposed to fresh air a person can significantly recover in 15-35 minutes, however, it can take multiple hours to fully recover. 

So it seems that PAVA is most effective when it comes into contact with a person’s eyes. And while PAVA may not be as effective as pepper spray (except for inflicting pain to the eyes), it’s still considered to be “less-lethal” and not “non-lethal” so I wouldn’t want to come into contact with it.

Are Pepper Balls Good For Self-Defense?

Pepper balls are filled with pepper irritant powder so they work great for self-defense. This incapacitating pepper powder (known as PAVA) can inflict severe pain upon a person’s eyes and involuntarily cause their eyes to close.

However, unlike tear gas or pepper spray, PAVA doesn’t negatively affect the respiratory system and makes it difficult for someone to breathe. Although, PAVA may induce a coughing reflex if you breathe enough of it in.

There may also be a slight sensation of heat to the facial skin if your face comes into contact with PAVA, although it should quickly disappear once you’re no longer in contact with the pepper irritant powder.

Are Pepper Balls Lethal?

No, pepper balls are not lethal. Even though pepper balls may inflict an extreme amount of pain and discomfort onto a person, it won’t actually kill them. At least not under any normal situation. 

Of course, there are always extreme situations where something that’s normally not lethal becomes lethal. A good example of this would be if a person has an underlying heart condition (or some other extreme illness) that could cause them to not be able to handle the stress caused by the side effects of PAVA.

Can You Shoot Pepper Balls Out Of a Paintball Gun?

Yes, you can shoot pepper balls with a paintball gun. As long as your paintball gun shoots regular .68 caliber-sized paintballs then you’ll be able to shoot pepper balls as well. However, if your paintball gun is .50 caliber or .43 caliber (most aren’t) then you won’t be able to shoot pepper balls.

These lower caliber paintball guns are typically meant for children as it’s referred to as low-impact paintball. Whereas any paintball gun that’s meant to be used in a regular paintball match (by adults) will be your regular paintball marker that shoots .68 caliber paintballs.

You have to be careful when it comes to paintball pistols (here are the best paintball pistols) though as many of them only shoot the lower caliber-sized paintballs.

Can You Use Pepper Balls for Home Defense?

Yes, pepper balls can be used for home defense. There are even some advantages to using pepper balls for home defense when compared to an actual firearm.

For example, if there’s an intruder in your home and you try shooting them with an actual firearm then there’s a good chance you may miss at least one of those shots, if not more. And each one of these bullets can easily kill someone in your house (or even your neighbor) just as easily as it can kill the intruder you’re aiming for.

Related: How Long Do Paintballs Last and How to Store Them Correctly

Fortunately, this isn’t a problem when using pepper balls for home defense. No longer do you have to carefully aim and only pull the trigger once you’re absolutely positive you can hit your target. Now you can fire upon the intruder as soon as you come into contact with them, hopefully scaring them away, if not incapacitating them with a huge cloud of man-made pepper irritant.

You can even shoot multiple pepper balls into a confined area such as a stairwell or hallways that the intruder has to walk into to make reaching you nearly impossible. At least not possible without suffering a severe amount of pain and discomfort. 

How to Shoot Pepper Balls With a Paintball Gun

Shooting pepper balls with a paintball gun is the same as shooting paintballs with a paintball gun, only a little bit more dangerous. 

Read More: How to Use a Paintball Gun

All you need to shoot a paintball gun is paintballs (or pepper balls in this case), a filled Co2 or HPA tank, a paintball loader, and a .68 caliber paintball gun or pistol. There are also paintball guns, pistols, and even flashlights (yes, flashlights) that are specifically made for shooting pepper balls.

PepperBall LifeLite Self- Defense Starting Kit State Compliant (Bright LED Flashlight with a...
  • ⭐This Kit Includes: Lifelite Launcher, 15 Inert Practice Projectiles, 2 CR123 Batteries, Lanyard, and Custom Pepperball decal stickers. CO2 and Live projectiles would need to be purchased...
  • ⭐NEW ALTERNATIVE TO PERSONAL SECURITY: LifeLite combines a LED flashlight with a launcher to offer covert protection in plain sight. PepperBall projectiles contain a powerful pepper irritant to...
  • ⭐INTEGRATED GUIDE: The integrated point guide automatically activates when the safety is off to provide precise aim and operation. It helps the user find and hit the target with ease. The guide also...

Are these paintball guns and pistols any different than regular paintball guns and pistols? No… but as long as it’s priced the same as a regular paintball marker then it shouldn’t be a problem. Here’s a guide from PepperBall themselves explaining how to shoot their pepper balls with one of their devices.

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Last update on 2021-10-23 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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Woodsball player, magfed player, automag owner, paintball sniper. Have played woodsball and scenario paintball (on and off) since 2007 and still loving the game!

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